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Icons-art - 8/26/98


"Eiksua (Icons)" by Hrolf Herljolfssen.


NOTE: See also the files: icons-msg, Byzant-Cerem-art, Byzantine-msg, religion-msg, rosaries-msg, brass-rub-msg, painting-msg, pigments-msg, tiles-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set

of files, called Stefan’s Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at:



Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be

reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first

or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


                               Thank you,

                                    Mark S. Harris

                                    AKA:  Stefan li Rous

                                         stefan at florilegium.org



First published in Kraken.


Eiksua  (Icons)

by Hrolf Herljolfssen


The icon (or its absence) is central to the theology, and indeed to the

world-view of those cultures which derive their traditions from the Eastern

Roman Empire.  The use of these images (by the iconodules or lovers of

icons) and their rejection (by the iconoclasts or breakers of icons)

sparked of one of the great controversies of the Orthodox Churches.  The

crisis caused by this controversy is one of the contributing factors that

allowed the Bishop of Rome to make a play for power in establishing the

Western (or Catholic) Rite, independent of the Metropolitan of



For an iconodule, the image itself is a magical object of veneration.

This is not because it is itself Holy, but because it stands as a

reflection or shadow of a sacred site or person.  For instance God is so

great that he casts an image that reverbrates throughout "reality".  We get

help in making contact with God by using one of these shadows of God.  In a

like fashion any other Holy person or place can be viewed or contacted by

the use of their own shadows if these shadows are constructed in the proper

fashion.  By possessing similarity (it depicts all "the characteristic

features of a holy person or a sacred event in accordance with authentic

sources" (Demus 1976: 7) - such as the lion and a gospel for St Mark) and

being made in a reverential and prayerful manner, it has taken on some of

this shadow or aura of God (or of the object of the icon). The viewer who

approaches the icon of Jesus thus approaches Jesus.


In order to become a part of the shadow of a Holy person or place, the

image must conform to a strict set of requirements.  Any image that does

not fulfill this set of requiremnets cannot be an icon, but merely a

painting - even though the subject may be a holy one.  For example: Saints

Cosmas and Damian.  All icons of these 3rd century saints always depict

them as a pair wearing lined robes, hoods or other distinctive physician's

garb, surgeon's bags and instuments.  Of course, being saints they will

have halos.  They may also be depicted with a white man with one black leg

(Duchet-Suchaux and Pastoureau 1994: 100-1).


The requirements for a Holy Place are less strict, but cannot deviate from

the Biblical text.  Thus people may be dressed in garb of the artist's time

and the houses etc be likewise contemporary, but if a main character is

mentioned as being in a robe, that is what they must wear.


The use of the icon as a magical actuality that enabled the worshipper to

see a part of the real saint or place (1) helps explain the lack of

comprehension that the Byzantines had of the Crusades and pilgrimage

generally.  A devout believer need not go to the physical sites, for

cleansing, as they could contact those sites by going to any well decorated

church.  Thus, by moving to the appropriate part of your local Basilica (2)

and gazing upon a series of mosaic icons you could watch the Passion of



1     This theory is no weirder than the Miracle of Trans-substantiation

(the bread and wine of the Sacrament are converted to the actual Body and

Blood of Christ), generally accepted within the Catholic Church today, but

heresy within most of the Middle Ages.


2     All Byzantine mosaics must be viewed from the correct angle (but

that is another story)


Reading that bears on the things talked about can be found in:


Buckton, David (editor) (1994) Byzantium: Treasures of Byzantine Art and

Culture British Museum Press, London, ISBN 0 7141 0577 5.


Demus, Otto (1976) Byzantine Mosaic Decoration: Aspects of Monumental Art

in Byzantium Caratzas Brothers, New Rochelle, ISBN 0 89241 018 3.


Duchet-Suchais, G and M. Pastoureau (1994) (trans David Howell) The Bible

and the Saints Flammarion, Paris ISBN 2›08013›564›3


Fischer, Peter (1971) Mosaic: History and Technique Thames and Hudson,

London, ISBN 0 500 23142 7.


Mango, Cyril (1994) Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome Phoenix, London,

ISBN 1›85799›130›3.


Morris, Colin (1989) The Papal Monarchy: the Western Church from 1050 to

1250 Oxford University Press, Oxford.


Sherrard, Phillip (1966) Byzantium Time-Life Books, New York, Library of

Congress 66›28334



copyright 1998, Cary Lenehan


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in

the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also

appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being

reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org